2019 SLC Annual Meeting

Program Agenda

SLC 2019 Logo

All substantive policy sessions, workshops and events will be held at the Sheraton New Orleans.

(Clicking on the individual sessions below will bring up additional details.)

Attending substantive committee sessions may qualify for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for state government officials in SLC member states. Substantive committee sessions are identified with a superscript CLE following the session title. Forms and further information will be available on-site at meeting registration.

Saturday, July 13

7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.


Grand Ballroom Foyer, Fifth Floor

11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Staff Workshop CLE

3:00 - 4:30 p.m.

Tony Simmons, President and CEO, McIlhenny Company, Louisiana
Tony Simmons, President and CEO, McIlhenny Company, Louisiana

Anthony “Tony” Simmons is the president and CEO of McIlhenny Company, the manufacturer of Tabasco® Red Pepper Sauce, based on Avery Island, Louisiana. Simmons is the great-great grandson of Edmund McIlhenny, the founder of McIlhenny Company and inventor of Tabasco Original Red Pepper Sauce. The McIlhenny Company has been family-owned and operated since its inception, and Simmons is the seventh member of the McIlhenny family to lead the company. Avery Island actually is a rock salt dome, measuring three miles long and two and a half miles wide, located in New Iberia Parish, with a population of under 300.

Tony Simmons joined McIhenny Company as executive vice president in January of 2000. In 2012, he was promoted to president and, in 2013, he became chief executive officer. He also is president and director of Avery Island, Inc., a land management company formed by the Avery and McIlhenny families. Tabasco® products are sold in more than 165 countries and territories around the world and labeled in 22 languages and dialects.

An active and concerned member of the community and environment, Simmons serves on the board of the America's Wetland Foundation and board of King Ranch.

Simmons holds a degree in speech from Loyola University–New Orleans and also attended Louisiana State University. He is an avid outdoor sportsman, enjoys fine wine and old cars, and attempts to play golf on his free weekends. Simmons resides on Avery Island with his wife Jeanie and their golden retriever, Moose. He has two children and four grandchildren.

5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Come participate in a unique opportunity to network with your staff colleagues across all branches of state government.

7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Shuttle buses will run loops between the hotel entrance on Canal Street and the museum from 6:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

Name badge required for entry.

Sunday, July 14

7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


Grand Ballroom Foyer, Fifth Floor

8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Breaking the Grass Ceiling: Hemp Cultivation and the 2018 Farm Bill

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, established important changes for the hemp industry, defining hemp as an agricultural commodity, removing it from the list of federally controlled substances and making hemp farmers eligible for crop insurance. Furthermore, it directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue regulations and guidance to implement a framework for the commercial production of hemp, including authorizing USDA to accept plans from state departments of agriculture to monitor and regulate hemp production. This session overviews the hemp provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill and what states may expect in forthcoming USDA regulations.

Holly Bell, Director of Cannabis, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Missed Connections: Expanding Broadband Access in Southern States

Access to reliable, high-speed internet is vital to almost every aspect of the nation’s economy. Communities with broadband access enjoy a wide array of economic, educational, public health and social advantages. However, a recent Microsoft study found that of 34 million Americans who lack broadband access, 22.4 million live in rural areas. Often compared to the electrification of rural America, the push to expand broadband access has gained momentum across the South. This session explores recent broadband expansion initiatives in SLC states.

Marty Newell, Chief Operating Officer, Center for Rural Strategies, Kentucky

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important agriculture and rural development issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

The Intersection of Cyber Security and Economic Development

In 2018, there were more than 310,000 cyber security job openings across the United States. Nearly 120,000 of the unfilled positions, approximately 38 percent of the national total, were located in the SLC region. As the cyber security industry continues to grow, and the threat of cyber attacks on governments and companies becomes increasingly sophisticated, state and local leaders should seek opportunities to advance the cyber security industry. By leveraging the private sector, law enforcement and higher education institutions, states can ensure they have the capacity and resources to strengthen cyber defense programs. In the process, they can bolster economic growth and support workforce development initiatives. This session explores policies that state and local leaders can consider to encourage growth in the cyber industry and highlights a unique cyber center in the region that can serve as a model for other states.

Michael Shaffer, Executive Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Economic Development, Augusta University and Georgia Cyber Center

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important economic development, transportation and cultural affairs issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

An End to Dead Ends: The Benefits of Complementary Postsecondary Pathways

In the United States, traditional universities, community and technical colleges and vocational training frequently are viewed as competing interests. However, evolving postsecondary education models more often view them as complementary partners. Allowing students to pursue multiple educational and training pathways, without encountering dead ends, provide multiple opportunities for crossover. In this changing and competitive economy, opportunities for students to transition from vocational or technical training to applied or traditional degree programs – and vice versa – are an imperative. The blending of traditional and technical education also allows students the opportunity to “earn while they learn” and gain practical experience. This session examines how structuring complementary postsecondary systems can open multiple pathways for students, allowing for both academic and career success.

Peter Zimmerli, Consul General, Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta, Georgia

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important education issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

A tradition since 2011, this service event gives attendees an opportunity to support local food-insecure families through packaging 50,000 meals for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans!

noon - 1:30 p.m.

Gloria Moncada, Plant Manager, ExxonMobil Fuels & Lubricants, Baton Rouge Refinery

This event highlights outstanding female leaders in the South. Join women in high-ranking Louisiana state government positions and SLC leadership roles for an address by our keynote presenter.

Gloria Moncada, Plant Manager, ExxonMobil Fuels & Lubricants, Baton Rouge Refinery

Gloria Moncada is the first female manager of ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge Refinery, the nation’s fourth-largest, with more than 3,700 employees and contractors. A native of Philadelphia, she began her career with ExxonMobil in 1992. In 2000, after several assignments in Baton Rouge, Moncada moved to Fairfax, Virginia, where she held roles in products optimization and global planning. In 2010, Moncada was named investor relations advisor and transferred to the company’s corporate headquarters in Dallas, Texas. During the next 18 years, Moncada held assignments of increasing responsibility in Texas, California and Singapore. In 2018, Moncada returned to Baton Rouge for her current assignment as plant manager.

2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Grid Modernization in Southern States

Modernizing the nation’s electric grid is a strategic imperative. As states increasingly push clean energy policies, a number also are investigating how business models may be adapted for emerging resources and to improve the reliability, resiliency and efficiency of the electric grid. In 2018, 11 of the 15 SLC member states took regulatory or legislative action on broad grid modernization or utility business model reform, including issues of advanced metering infrastructure, storage deployment, data access and revenue reforms. This session explores policies to encourage utility investments necessary to modernize the electric grid.

Warren Wood, Vice President of External Affairs and Communications, Ameren Missouri

Sara Mullen-Trento, Ph.D., Strategic Issues Lead, Technology Innovation, Electric Power Research Institute, Tennessee

The Economic Impact of LNG Exports in Southern States

Investments in liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities have taken off in recent years, driven by a glut of cheap domestic natural gas and increasing global demand for a cleaner burning alternative to coal. The value of U.S. LNG exports is expected to reach $12 billion in 2019 as the European Union seeks to lessen member states’ dependence on Russian gas. By 2025, the United States is expected to be the largest LNG exporter in the world. This session explores the LNG export landscape and economic impact in the Southern region.

David Dismukes, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Energy Studies, Louisiana State University

Jason French, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs, Tellurian, Inc., Texas

Matt Barr, Director of State Government and Public Affairs, Cheniere Energy, Louisiana

New and Expanded Revenue Streams

As advances in technology both create new and remake existing markets, states are looking to regulate and tax these sectors. These areas include digital streaming services, electronic goods, ridesharing services and short-term rentals, among others. With consumers shifting to embrace this new economy and the market for digital goods and services growing exponentially, these emerging markets are replacing prior, and broadening existing, sources of state revenue. This session explores how states’ efforts to tax these new revenue sources and the economic impact these emerging markets could have on the Southern region.

John Hicks, Executive Director, National Association of State Budget Officers, Washington, D.C.

Richard Cram, Director, National Nexus Program, Multistate Tax Commission, Washington, D.C.

Job Tax Credits and the Revitalization of Disadvantaged Areas

Despite steady post-recession economic recovery, many rural and disadvantaged areas have not benefited from proportional growth. This is especially evident in the South, where several states have yet to reach pre-recession levels of fiscal health. In addition to exploring new revenue streams, states are developing various fiscal policies to encourage investment and development in these areas. Job tax credits are one such measure under consideration, as states weigh both the economic benefits and costs of this fiscal policy. Since 2011, 14 of the 15 SLC member states have implemented job tax credits. This session discusses how states are implementing this fiscal policy to revitalize disadvantaged and rural areas.

John Hamman, Senior Associate, State Fiscal Health Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C.

Family First Prevention Services Act: An Overview

The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act on February 9, 2018. The act reforms the federal child welfare financing streams – Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act – to provide services for those who are at risk of entering the child welfare system. The act aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement to families for mental health services, substance abuse treatment and in-home parenting skills training beginning October 1, 2019. It also will improve the well-being of children by ensuring appropriate foster care placements and reducing the number of children placed in congregate care. This session provides a comprehensive overview of the Family First Prevention Services Act and details how it will impact states moving forward.

Susan Robison, Director, State Relations, Casey Family Programs, Washington, D.C.

Eric Clark, Commissioner, Department for Community Based Services, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Kentucky

Representative David Meade, Speaker Pro Tempore, Kentucky

Human Trafficking and Exploitation

Human trafficking and exploitation is prevalent throughout the United States, part of a worldwide industry involving billions of dollars and millions of victims. Due to underreporting and the difficulty of identifying victims, there is no official estimate of the number of people trafficked nationally. However, tens of thousands of cases have been reported involving both US. citizens and foreign nationals. Traffickers frequently target vulnerable populations, including runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and social discrimination. This session highlights approaches to connecting services and treatment for victims of trafficking and exploitation and identifies actions taken in Southern states in recent years to combat this urgent problem.

Kathryn Moorehead, Director, Violence Against Women Act and Human Trafficking Programs, Office of the Attorney General, South Carolina

5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills
October 5-9, 2019 | Little Rock, Arkansas

The Governmental Leadership Program of the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments

We invite CALS alumni to reconnect with classmates and those interested in the program to come by and learn more!

The Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills (CALS) is an annual four-day program designed for new and mid-career Southern state officials from all branches to reinforce and refine their skills in communication, conflict resolution, consensus building and critical decision making. Full scholarships are provided to those selected, covering the cost of tuition, travel, lodging and meals.

Visit slcatlanta.org/CALS/ for more information and the online application.

6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Shuttle buses will run loops between the hotel entrance on Canal Street and the park from 6:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

Name badge required for entry.

Monday, July 15

7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Grand Ballroom Foyer, Fifth Floor

8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Power Portfolio Planning

Low natural gas prices and the increasing availability of renewable energy is transforming the energy generation landscape. As utilities plan future investments, they are tasked with developing a resource mix that meets customer demand while minimizing the total cost, environmental impacts and enterprise risk. This session explores the long-term resource planning strategies, perspectives and trends in the utility industry.

Paul Chodak III, Executive Vice President of Generation, American Electric Power, Ohio

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important energy and environmental legislation taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

Governmental Efficiency and Occupational Licensing Reform

In recent years, there has been a bipartisan push at both the state and federal levels to reform burdensome occupational licensing processes. These efforts mostly focus on creating a more efficient and comprehensive review process. Adding sunset provisions allowing legislative committees or taskforces to review the licensing process and determine if many such licenses are necessary, or whether they constitute an undue burden on either the state or licensees also is under review. Balancing concerns for necessary oversight and public protections, while reviewing existing regulations, along with licensure transferability, are key factors for policymakers. This session examines states’ efforts to increase government efficiency through regulatory reform and highlights recent licensing reform efforts in the South.

Representative Julie Emerson, Louisiana

Allison Clarke, Deputy Secretary, Department of State, Louisiana

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important fiscal and governance issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

The Proliferation of Drones in Prisons 

As drones becomes more accessible and affordable, inmates are effectively utilizing the technology for nefarious purposes, such as arranging prison breaks and smuggling contraband into and out of facilities. In response, many states have enacted legislation banning the use of drone technology near corrections facilities and increasing penalties for those caught using drones to assist prisoners. A number of states also have deployed sophisticated technology to detect and intercept drones to prevent them from reaching airspace around prisons. This session reviews the various concerns that drones pose for corrections officials and highlights recent initiatives Southern states have taken to address this public safety issue.

Bryan P. Stirling, Director, Department of Corrections, South Carolina

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important health and public safety issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Gordon H. Mueller, President and CEO Emeritus, The National World War II Museum
Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller, President and CEO Emeritus, The National World War II Museum

Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, former historian and vice chancellor at the University of New Orleans, served as founding president and CEO of the National WWII Museum.

During a distinguished career at UNO, Mueller made his mark as a popular teacher, dean and administrator. He played a lead role in creating the Metropolitan College and in developing new extension and distance learning programs; the University Conference Center; Center Austria; and the International Summer School in Innsbruck, Austria. He also founded the University of New Orleans Research and Technology Park.

Mueller’s most daunting challenge came one afternoon in 1990 when his close friend and colleague, Stephen Ambrose, a renowned military historian, proposed that they collaborate in building a D-Day museum at the University of New Orleans to preserve oral histories and create exhibits to tell the stories of the American troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. A New Orleans location for the museum was justified by a powerful wartime connection: Andrew Higgins, chief executive of Higgins Industries, built many thousands of landing craft and other boats for the Normandy assault and other allied invasions, and was called “the man who won the war for us” by none other than Supreme Commander (and later president) Dwight Eisenhower.

What began as an idea for a modest museum to preserve the oral histories and tell the D-Day story – at a cost of $4 million – soon mushroomed into a mega museum on six acres in downtown New Orleans.

Some 28 years after birth of the museum-building idea, the National WWII Museum is ranked by TripAdvisor users as no. 3 among American museums, and no. 8 among museums worldwide.

After the museum’s opening in 2000, motivated by national success and congressional urging, Mueller accepted an appointment as founding president and CEO and worked with Ambrose to begin shaping an expanded vision for the museum to portray all aspects of the American experience in World War II.

Sadly, Ambrose – who provided the keynote address at the 2002 SLC Annual Meeting in New Orleans – passed away shortly thereafter – just as execution of the master plan began. Despite the loss of Ambrose, Mueller continued with a new national board of trustees to complete the plan and secure congressional designation in 2004 as America’s official museum for World War II, with an initial estimated construction cost of $225 million and a goal to finish by 2012.

By 2017, the expansion goal increased to $400 million. Since the 2004 capital campaign, and despite setbacks from both natural disasters – such as Hurricane Katrina – and the economic recession of 2008 – Mueller and his team had raised more than $300 million.

This fall, they will participate in the grand opening events for the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center; Hall of Democracy; and the Bollinger Canopy of Peace, with construction of the Liberation Pavilion to begin soon.

Together, these represent the major remaining projects in the Museum’s master plan – all to be completed by 2021.

Mueller’s new role as president and CEO emeritus affords him time for research and writing, recently completing work on a new collection of personal accounts from the Allied invasion of Normandy, titled Everything We Have: D-Day 6.6.'44.

Mueller continues to lead overseas WWII tours and speaks widely on the war experience, the American spirit, and nonprofit leadership.

noon - 1:30 p.m.

Sponsored by the Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee

Prepared annually by legislative staff in Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia, comparative data reports track a multitude of revenue sources, performance measures, program variances and appropriations levels in the SLC member states. They remain invaluable tools for both legislators and legislative staff in crafting effective legislation and implementing policy decisions.

Adult Corrections

Monique Appeaning, Legislative Fiscal Office, Louisiana


Hank Hager, Senate Education Committee, West Virginia


Zachary M. Rau, Legislative Fiscal Office, Louisiana


Tammy Branham, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky

2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Controlling the Feral Swine Population in Southern States

The feral swine population in America has surpassed five million and spread to 39 states, including every SLC state. Sometimes called wild boars, feral hogs, wild pigs or the “rototillers” of nature, they cause approximately $2.5 billion in damages and control costs each year. As feral swine spread, they devastate the lands they inhabit, destroying fences, uprooting crops and contaminating water supplies. This session assesses the impact of feral hogs in Southern states and some promising initiatives for controlling the population.

Scott Alls, State Director of Wildlife Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma

Where’s the Beef? The Changing Landscape of Meat Labeling Laws

From the Impossible Burger to lab-grown meat, engineered and plant-based products are growing in popularity across the country. In 2018, sales of plant-based meat substitutes increased to $1.5 billion, up 22 percent from the previous year. With this trend comes a host of labeling issues. In recent years, several SLC states have introduced legislation to prohibit the labeling of animal cultures, plants and insects as meat. This session explores future trends in meat production and regulation.

Robert Hibbert, Partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Washington, D.C.

Representative John Stefanski, Louisiana

An Update on Transportation and Infrastructure Funding

In recent years, there has been a push across the South to expand funding for long-needed repairs on roads, bridges and mass transit systems. Since 2016, the majority of SLC state legislatures have agreed on transportation and infrastructure funding using a combination of higher fuel taxes, bond sales, tolls and additional fees for hybrid and electric vehicles to increase revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars annually for construction, maintenance and repairs. Amid ongoing uncertainties surrounding federal infrastructure funding, states have taken the initiative to address this important issue. This session reviews the measures SLC states have taken to boost transportation and infrastructure funding and highlights the implications for states if a federal infrastructure package is passed this year.

Norma Jean Mattei, Former President, American Society of Civil Engineers, Louisiana

Distracted Driving Laws in Southern States

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving resulted in more than 3,400 deaths and 391,000 injuries in 2016, the last year for which national data is available. While there are many activities that cause a driver to be distracted behind the wheel, there has been a particular focus in recent years to mitigate distractions caused by phones and other handheld electronic devices. Fourteen of the 15 SLC states prohibit all drivers from texting while driving. However, only two have enacted statewide hand-held device bans for all drivers. This session explores the impact of distracted driving on transportation safety and examines how SLC states can standardize their laws to ensure maximum safety in the future.

Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director, Governors Highway Safety Association, Washington, D.C.

Senator Greg Boso, West Virginia

The Importance of School Climate Monitoring

School climate monitoring involves a comprehensive assessment of student engagement levels, school safety and the learning environment, providing educators with the necessary data to identify school needs, set goals and track progress toward improvement. A positive school climate improves students’ mental and behavioral health, reduces disciplinary actions and reduces chronic absenteeism. It also is critical to school safety response and recovery as well as school violence prevention. Currently, 12 of the 15 SLC member states incorporate a school climate indicator for improvement or accountability purposes in their education accountability systems. This session discusses school climate monitoring, why it is important and how states are implementing school climate monitoring programs and crafting effective responses to climate reports.

Cheryl Benefield, Program Manager, Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Department of Education, Georgia

Lessons from the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development

In 2016, the nonpartisan Aspen Institute established the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development to research how educators and policymakers can prepare students – socially, emotionally and academically – to navigate the complex, competitive and globally connected world. Consisting of leaders from the fields of education, scientific research, public policy, business and the military, the commission worked with student and parent groups to survey existing policies and identify areas of improvement. The commission’s final report recommends policymakers set a clear vision, foster and support the continuous improvement of learning environments, promote the development of educator capacity to support students’ needs, and align resources efficiently. This session examines the commission’s findings and explores how legislators can implement these recommendations in their states.

General Craig McKinley, Commissioner, National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, Florida

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Program Interval

9:00 - 11:30 p.m.

2020 Host State Reception: North Carolina

Tuesday, July 16

7:30 - 10:00 a.m.


Grand Ballroom Foyer, Fifth Floor

8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Gayle Benson, Owner, New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans
Gayle Benson, Owner, New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans

A New Orleans native, Gayle Benson provides leadership for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans as owner, succeeding her husband, Tom Benson, who passed away on March 15, 2018, after serving as the owner of the Pelicans franchise since 2012 and the Saints since 1985.

Gayle Benson is an accomplished business professional and philanthropist with strong ties to the local community and who is dedicated to contributing to the growth and enhancement of the Gulf South region.

After marrying in 2004, the Bensons worked together to build championship-level NBA and NFL organizations at state-of-the-art Ochsner Sports Performance Center, Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Center, while also making a positive impact in the community.

With the Saints franchise under the guidance of the Bensons, the team has reached new heights since the hiring of Sean Payton as head coach and signing of quarterback Drew Brees in 2006. Since then, the franchise has reached its highest point of success, posting a 119-85 record over the last 12 years, featuring six playoff berths, four division titles, two NFC championship appearances and the Super Bowl XLIV title.

The Bensons purchased the former Hornets franchise from the NBA in 2012 and rebranded them as the Pelicans. On the court, while the Hornets finished with the worst record in the NBA’s Western Conference in 2011-12, the Pelicans have become a successful organization, reaching the playoffs in 2018 for the second time since 2012 and advancing to the second round.

As dedicated corporate citizens, the Saints and Pelicans annually put millions of dollars back into the community in financial supports, In-kind donation, charitable appearances and donations of goods and services.

Mrs. Benson is a committed supporter of the area’s educational institutions on all levels, serving on the boards of St. Mary’s Dominican High School; Archbishop Hannan High School; New Orleans Center for Creative Arts; and Tulane University. She also is a member of the Audubon Commission, which oversees the Audubon Nature Institute and served on the mayor transition committee of New Orleans mayor Latoya Cantrell.

Mrs. Benson began her professional career in 1968 as a manager for noted New York-based costume jeweler Celebrity Jewelry, overseeing and managing the daily operation for more than 40 sales associates. In 1975, Mrs. Benson began a 30-year career in the design industry under a business she called Gayle Bird Interiors, achieving tremendous success.

Throughout the course of her career she was recognized with Numerous professional awards and served as an inaugural member on the Louisiana state board of licensing for four years. She directed numerous major design efforts with her clients, including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, several of the city’s most prestigious hotels, local supermarket chains and automobile dealerships.

In addition to her sports teams, Mrs. Benson established GMB Racing Stables in 2014. In 2016, two of the thoroughbreds participated in the Kentucky Derby. Her “Lone Sailor” horse ran in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

Mrs. Benson is known as one of the most gracious and generous citizens of New Orleans.

Executive Committee

Meets upon conclusion of the Closing Plenary

10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.


2019 STAR Award Judges Panel

Through the State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) award, the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments recognizes creative, impactful, transferable and effective state government solutions. The recognition is sought by a wide array of state agencies, departments, and institutions operating within the executive, legislative and judicial governmental branches. Each year, two exceptional programs are selected by a panel of experienced policy professionals as models of innovation and effectiveness in state government in the Southern region. The five finalists presenting are:

Louisiana - LA Creel

Virginia - Low Risk Community Supervision

Arkansas - The Good Grid

Kentucky - MyPURPOSE

Tennessee - Reconnect

11:15 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Committee Site Visits

USDA’s Southern Regional Research Center

The Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) is one of four regional research facilities in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service established by the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. Completed in 1941 on a 39.9-acre site, SRRC employs approximately 150 scientists and technical support staff. Research products developed by the SRRC have made a significant national as well as global economic impact, with an estimated return on investment of 34 percent. Many of the conveniences we take for granted, such as wrinkle-resistant and flame-retardant cotton clothing, are based on research conducted at SRRC. Committee members will participate in a tour of SRRC and briefings on key research being undertaken.

The Port of New Orleans

The Port of New Orleans is a multimodal gateway, uniquely situated on the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico. The port’s strategic location allows easy access to more than 30 major inland hubs via 14,000 miles of waterways, six Class I railroads and interstate roadways.  The port generates approximately $100 million in annual revenue through four lines of business – cargo, rail, cruises and industrial real estate. Port-generated industries support one in five jobs in Louisiana, with average annual salaries of $74,000 for companies located on the port’s property. This site visit offers committee members a valuable opportunity to receive briefings from officials about the port’s significance to Louisiana and the wider region, as well as participate in both land and water tours to see the port’s many facilities.

Shell Oil’s Deepwater Operations Training Center

Shell Oil’s Offshore Training facility in Robert, Louisiana, simulates conditions found in Deepwater oil and gas exploration and training facilities world-wide. Here, employees of Shell and other companies receive instruction on drilling and completion operations, production operations, instrumentation, electronics and electrical components, as well as health, safety and environmental concerns. Committee members will receive a briefing on the assets and operations involved in bringing Deepwater oil and gas resources to consumers, followed by a tour of the center’s labs and instructional facilities, which feature equipment identical to that found on Deepwater offshore platforms around the globe.

noon - 5:00 p.m.


When implemented properly, occupational licensing can help protect the health and safety of consumers by requiring practitioners to undergo a designated amount of training and education in their field. However, disparities in occupational licensing laws across states can create barriers for those looking to enter the labor market or relocate across state lines. This session explores best state practices for occupational licensing reform and reviews recent legislative and regulatory state actions, policies that aid disproportionately affected populations, effective uses of sunrise and sunset provisions, and mechanisms to improve licensure reciprocity, such as interstate compacts.

The Occupational Licensing Policy Learning Consortium: Southern State Involvement

Representative Bruce Cozart, Arkansas

Disproportionately Affected Populations

Josh Gaines, Senior Policy Analyst, Justice Center, The Council of State Governments, New York

Mike Zimmer, J.D., Senior Policy Consultant, World Education Services, New York

Eric Sherman, Southeast Regional Liaison, Defense-State Liaison Office, U.S. Department of Defense, Florida

Sunrise-Sunset Review

Senator John McCollister, Nebraska

Senator Rob McColley, Ohio

Interstate Compacts

Rick Masters, Special Counsel, National Center for Interstate Compacts, The Council of State Governments, Kentucky

Nahale Freeland Kalfas, Attorney and Counselor at Law, North Carolina

6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Reception & State Dinner

Please note, this event is intended for guests age 18 and over.

Wednesday, July 17

6:00 a.m. - noon